North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends an emergency meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee at an undisclosed location on July 25. (Photo: AFP/KCNA via KNS)
North Korea is developing its nuclear program despite international sanctions and has probably developed miniaturized nuclear devices which can fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles, according to a confidential United Nations report.
The interim report, seen by Reuters, by an independent panel of experts was submitted to the 15-member UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee on Aug. 3.
The experts said they believed North Korea's six nuclear tests had likely helped it to develop miniaturized nuclear devices.
“The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear program, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor,” the report said.
A member state assessed that North Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons, it added.
Pyongyang last conducted a nuclear test in September 2017.
UN sanctions were imposed on North Korea in 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which have been strengthened amid regular reports that it continues to enhance its nuclear capability in violation of sanctions.
According to Reuters, the UN report said one country assessed that North Korea “may seek to further develop miniaturization in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements such as penetration aid packages or, potentially, to develop multiple warhead systems.”
The member countries and the expert panel were not named. North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the UN report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met three times with US President Donald Trump over the last two years but progress proved elusive, with US calls for Pyongyang to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons falling on deaf ears.
Pyongyang did follow through on a pledge in May 2018 by blowing up tunnels at its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, but independent experts were not allowed to witness the dismantling of the site.
The UN report found that while tunnel entrances were destroyed, there was no evidence to support claims of comprehensive demolition. One country on the panel believed North Korea could rebuild infrastructure needed for a nuclear test within three months.
Last week the elusive leader of the isolated country ruled out future wars, saying nuclear weapons would guarantee North Korea’s future safety.
The UN experts also said North Korea was violating sanctions, including "through illicit maritime exports of coal, though it suspended these temporarily between late January and early March 2020” amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN has previously said North Korea had amassed US$2 billion through widespread and sophisticated cyberattacks designed to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
“The panel continues to assess that virtual asset service providers and virtual assets will continue to remain lucrative targets for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to generate revenue, as well as mining cryptocurrencies,” the latest report said.